One topic of conversation that never fails to generate lots of laughter at our parish moms’ group is the hilarity that often accompanies growing vocabularies. Kids really do say the funniest things, and the reason they are funny is because the children uttering the slightly askew words or phrases are completely innocent of the meanings of their mispronunciations. Heaven knows our tribe has had, and continues to have, its share of anguished English, with occasionally uproarious results. For example, all of our children have had a dreadful time properly pronouncing the word, “sit,” which is unfortunate because that’s quite the oft-spoken word around here. So far, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy have all managed to holler, “shit, shit SHIT,” at a sibling who refused to remain seated in a chair or shopping cart. It is, I believe, a law of nature that small children will only do this when there is a large crowd of people present, each member of which is ready to extend a glower at the (apparently) cursing child.
Mr. Man’s current bon mot is “snake” for steak, while one of his buddies has finally mastered the pronunciation of “truck.” Bugaboo, who has always loved to sing, used to proudly belt out “Jesus Wants Me for a Zombie” to any audience, and Beanie once reduced the entire checkout section at Wegmans to helpless laughter by pointing to those helium-filled objects that are the objects of most small children’s desire and loudly asking, “Mommy, wan’ some big boobs pease?” I will never forget the sweet, octogenarian lady who turned to my little girl with a merry smile and said, “Sweetie, so do I.” Then there was Bugaboo, who strikes up conversations with anyone who stops to say hello when we go shopping, responding to the question of an elderly gentleman who inquired of her what she was helping Mommy find at the big store one day with, “My Daddy needs some new panties. He uses the potty, you know.”
Then there was the beat-all that emanate from Beanie. My stock answer to the “I wants” used to be, “Hey, Mommy wants a Maserati, but that’s not happening either.” One day, Beanie was striking out on all fronts with her “I wants,” and when I employed my standard reply, she burst into tears, wailing, “I don’ WANNA mommysnotty!” It took me almost ten minutes to compose myself enough to call my husband to relay that one.
Mr. Man is a huge fan of all the Bill Martin, Jr. books. The example above is the only one that still has a photographable cover. After a dinner that involved four pasta-coated faces, followed by a rowdy hour in the yard, Mr. Man wandered upstairs, grabbed a stack of books, and clambered into my lap for some storytime. I absolutely love that he calls Baby Guy over to join him when he decides it’s time to read. At any rate, we read through several of his favorite board books; when we had finished his initial selections, Mr. Man meandered back to the bookshelf to choose a couple more, since he didn’t have to take turns with his sisters and Baby Guy hasn’t yet figured out how to crawl while carrying a book. Seizing his favorite (and the best-known, I suspect) Bill Martin title, he ran back to me, waving his trophy in the air and merrily shouting, “BOOM CHICKA WOW WOW BOOM CHICKA WOW WOW!”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed so hard tears squirted out of my eyes. When I recovered myself, two little boys were sitting in front of me, staring at me with puzzled smiles on their faces. Gathering both boys and the book into my lap, I started up a rhythmic chant of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” until Mr. Man was saying it correctly and clapping his hands to the beat — which had the bonus effect of getting him to clap his hands every time the phrase “chicka chicka boom boom” came up in the book as we read.
It occurs to me that moments like those are the ones the Lord sends to remind us that teaching and learning are both pretty enjoyable if I have the right attitude, and that the proper response to making and correcting errors is taking the moment to recognize the humor in our mistakes.
Incidentally, I’d love to read any stories of mangled language any of you care to share.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for laughter, for Your blessings who are learning to speak, and for the abundance of ways You have provided for them to learn new words through books, music, and playing with friends. Remind me to always keep a light heart when correcting them for even serious errors, and to teach them to enjoy the moment of levity when they realize a mistake. Please, Lord, teach me to enjoy that same brief laugh when I err, as I often do, and to make my corrections with good humor and gratitude for the opportunity to fix my errors, so Your blessings will see that, while we’d rather not make mistakes, we will because we are not You, and You will grant us to wisdom to laugh at our own folly if we ask it of You.